PORTLAND, Maine — Staring out at the “Maine Monster,” one might be able to imagine being at historic Fenway Park in Boston.
And though Hadlock Field was an unfamiliar venue for the University of Maine, the Black Bears simply concentrated on playing good baseball Tuesday night.
UMaine reached the Boston College bullpen for seven late runs, supporting a solid combined pitching effort, while earning a 9-4 victory at the home of the Portland Sea Dogs.
Coach Steve Trimper’s ballclub (26-22) provided a crowd of 1,671 fans with plenty to cheer about as it beat the Eagles from the Atlantic Coast Conference on a chilly, damp evening.
UMaine stranded several base runners early, but came up with clutch hits later in the contest to win its final nonconference game of the season. The Bears now return to Mahaney Diamond, where they will close out the regular season Friday and Saturday with a four-game series against Stony Brook.
Mike Fransoso rapped a double and two singles and scored three runs to spearhead UMaine, but didn’t pay much attention to the towering left-field wall.
“I didn’t look out there too much, being a lefty hitter,” said the lifelong Red Sox fan. “I knew I wasn’t going to put one out, but I’m sure the righties, when they got up there, kind of seeing a short porch, big wall, wanted to make a memory.”
No balls were hit off the wall.
Alex Calbick provided a double, a single and two RBIs while Fran Whitten and Troy Black posted two singles each among the Bears’ 13 hits.
Sophomore right-hander Mike Connolly worked 5⅓ innings, giving up seven hits and three runs. All of them came on Andrew Lawrence’s three-run home run, which gave Boston College (21-31) a 3-2 lead in the sixth inning.
“Today we needed a win and I just went out there and gave everything I got,” said Connolly, who appeared to tire as his pitch count rose above 100.
“I hung a curveball,” he explained. “I was missing my spots. I think that’s when everybody knew I was kind of losing it a bit.”
Senior lefty Jon Balentina (3-0) worked 2⅔ scoreless innings to pick up the victory.
The game also marked the mound return of Westbrook’s Scott Heath, who had not pitched since last summer after undergoing Tommy John reconstructive surgery on his left elbow. He admitted having some nerves, despite having played at Hadlock a few times in the past.
“It was awesome. It was a great atmosphere. All your friends and family are here and they’re cheering you on,” said Heath, who walked two and gave up an unearned run in the ninth.
“I was a little nervous. I shook it out of me, though,” Heath said. “I didn’t have my best stuff, so I battled through it and got outs when I needed to.”
Lawrence added a single for the Eagles, who managed seven hits. Reliever Kyle Prohovich (1-3), the fourth of seven BC pitchers, took the loss.
Down 3-2, UMaine scored four times in the seventh. Fransoso got it started with an infield single, then Tyler Patzalek laced a one-out double to left field. Heath was walked intentionally to load the bases, then Prohovich was lifted in favor of John Gorman.
Calbick hit a sharp bouncer toward the middle that deflected off the glove of second baseman Blake Butera and two runs scored. Whitten and Brian Doran followed with run-scoring singles to give the Bears a 6-3 advantage.
“We scored a few runs, we got a lot of two-out hits, which is one thing our team really needs to do if we want to be successful,” Heath said.
The Bears jumped in front 1-0 in the bottom of the first inning when Fransoso laced an opposite-field double to left-center and later rode home on a sacrifice fly to right by Patzalek.
UMaine made it 2-0 in the second. Whitten and Doran worked one-out walks, then Sam Balzano of Portland punched an opposite-field single over the head of the shortstop to load the bases.
Black lined a single to center to score the run, but Nick Poore retired Fransoso and Colin Gay to avoid further damage.
“It was an outstanding job by our hitters,” Trimper said. “A lot of our hits were up the middle, trying to drive those gaps. We were trying to have a better approach at the plate, going pitch to pitch to pitch and not giving away outs.”
Boston College got runners on early, but could not score. Connolly pitched around a pair of two-out walks in the first inning, then allowed two two-out singles in the second but escaped.
The Eagles finally got to Connolly in the sixth with one out. Rob Moir lined a single to center field and Spenser Payne laced a single to center field. That brought up Lawrence, who yanked a 2-2 offering from Connolly into the bullpen above the right-field fence to give Boston College a 3-2 lead.